(April 11, 2005) -- For the past two years, Steve McKichan has been Ed Belfour's personal goaltending coach. In Ed's first year in Toronto he set a team record for victories with 37 and was a big reason the Leafs had a successful season. This past season Eddie had another stellar year finishing the season with a career win total of 435. During the playoffs he posted three shutouts in the opening round as the Leafs sneaked by the Ottawa Senators.
After the season ended, McKichan accepted the position of Goaltending Coach with the Maple Leafs, which means that all of the goalies in the Toronto system will now be under his guidance and coaching.
As an NHL goalie coach, Steve must develop all the goaltenders in the system and try to get them all progressing towards the mutual goal of playing in the "show". Besides the two goaltenders on the big club, most teams will have two goaltenders in the AHL and one or two goalies in a third tier level like the ECHL or the Central Hockey League. In addition there are normally two or three other youngsters that have been drafted but still play in Major Junior or college hockey.
Now, Steve will regularly offer up some great practice tips for goalies of all ages at all levels...
"All pro goaltenders do things really well as you would imagine but clearly they all have areas of weakness or more accurately areas the need to improve on. The fact that they are getting paid to play doesn't mean they have the position perfected. This applies to the guys on their way to the Hockey Hall of Fame and the guys trying to get their first taste of the Big Leagues.
"Each individual goaltender in our system would have specific areas to address but all goaltenders need to work on three core areas. Even goaltenders still playing in youth leagues or in the recreation leagues can benefit from these ideas...
The Backup Goalie
Every team has a starting goalie and by definition this means the other goaltender will have to fill the role and expectations of the back up position. No one wants to be a back up for more than a short period of time, if ever. I always hear about how someone would love to play in the NHL as a back up for the type of money they get. However, the true athlete longs for and hungers for the chance to be a starter. If you are currently the back up, this article will outline how the situation should be handled and give you valuable advice on how to make sure it isn't a permanent designation.
The starting point in this discussion is your attitude and many back ups fall into familiar attitude traps. These traps include bitterness, jealousy, resignation and hopelessness.
To discuss this issue in detail lets focus on what positive attributes a back up should possess. You can surely infer what the negative attributes would look like. I like to look at things from this positive perspective.
At practice, attempt to outwork the starter. Be sure to be out on the ice early and stay out after practice working on your game. The back up sometimes gets the drills that aren't the most fun in the world but treat all practice drills as if your job was on the line. In fact many times the puck seems to be shot at the higher parts of the net on the back up. Take these shots without complaint and accept it as part of your job.
On games days approach things as if you were the starter. Try not to be the loud, funny guy in the dressing room. Be as quiet as the starter and focus on the game as if you were playing. Obviously this will serve you well if you have to go in.
Be sure to give the starter a bigger share of shots in the warm up. He will appreciate it and will be sure to reciprocate when you are starting. On the bench be supportive of the team and try to "stay in" the game. Follow the action and in your mind try to anticipate the developing plays and which opposition players appear to be particularly dangerous that game.
Around the team and the coaches never make negative comments about the fact that you are the back up. If you have questions about the situation you are in, approach the coach privately and discuss your concerns. My advice is not to ask things like when you are going to get to play or why the other guy is the starter. You will have much better luck by asking him what parts of your game you can work on. Whether you agree with him or not, make a conscious effort in every practice to address the areas he revealed to you.
A quality back up goalie is an extremely valuable thing to a team's success. You need to be able to play well after long periods of inactivity, come in to pressure packed game situations and be a genuine team player. If you follow these guidelines you'll be successful in this role and destined to become a starter sooner rather than later.
Chuck Thuss was forced into the role of a back up goalie for three straight years at Miami University. Since Chuck had played a little Major Junior, his first year was spent practicing only so he could regain his eligibility. The following two years he couldn't break into the line up and paid for the majority of his schooling out of his pocket. In his senior year, injuries to the other goalies gave him his chance to play. By the end of the year he was an All-American and signed a pro contract. I can't imagine a bleaker situation with a more impressive outcome.
"If you want to reach your goals in hockey as an elite goaltender it is important to focus on these core areas. If you have any other questions you could drop me an email or visit my website www.futurepro.com.
Toronto Maple Leafs Goaltending Coach